Facebook’s upcoming App Center may look a lot like the Apple App Store and Google Play, but it’s not exactly their competitor.
Instead of selling apps that integrate with Facebook, the new App Center will refer users to other app stores where they can buy them.
Confused? You’re not the only one. After Facebook announced the new feature on Wednesday, “I don’t get it” was a common response.
We have answered below some of the most common questions about how the App Center will work, what apps it will contain and why Facebook built it. Let us know if you have another question we missed.
So Facebook is going to have an app store now?
Yes, but not in the same sense that Google and Apple have app stores. What Facebook has announced is more of an app showcase. In addition to apps built on Facebook, it includes apps that use Facebook Login, regardless of whether they’re iOS, Android or web apps.
Does that mean I can buy iOS and Android apps on Facebook?
No. Though you will find iOS and Android apps in the App Center, you will be directed to Apple’s App Store or Google Play to actually download the apps.
Facebook announced on Wednesday that it will allow developers to charge for “apps built on Facebook” for the first time, but is not clear whether users will purchase apps directly from the App Center.
What are “apps built on Facebook,” and how are they different than iOS and Android apps that integrate with Facebook?
Apps built on Facebook are web apps viewed and used within the Facebook site. They get a special page within Facebook where they load. On the other hand, apps with Facebook integration such as Draw Something and Pinterest are built on external platforms, but they interface with Facebook for login and other social features.
Couldn’t I spend money on apps built on Facebook before?
Yes. Previously, Facebook has allowed in-app purchases within these apps, but it has not allowed developers to charge for apps themselves.
Social game maker Zynga, for example, has previously been able to charge for items like blueberries or game advantages within Farmville. Now it will have the option to charge for Farmville itself.
How will I access Facebook’s App Center?
Facebook’s App Center will launch on the web as well as within the iOS and Android Facebook apps.
What will the App Center Look Like?
It will look a lot like Google Play or the Apple App Store. Each app will have a detail page, which includes a five-star user-rating system. A screenshot of the prototype that Facebook engineer Aaron Brady included in a blog post about the center includes sections for recommended apps, friends’ apps, top apps, trending apps and top-grossing apps.
“We use a variety of signals, such as user ratings and engagement, to determine if an app is listed in the App Center,” Brady wrote.
Hasn’t Facebook launched something like this before?
Sort of. When Facebook first launched Facebook apps in 2007, there was a dedicated applications area where users could browse apps from third-party developers. Users currently locate Facebook apps through the same search bar they use to find people, groups and events.
Why would Facebook launch something like this?
As Brady put it in his blog post, “The App Center is designed to grow mobile apps that use Facebook — whether they’re on iOS, Android or the mobile web.”
Facebook wants developers to build mobile apps that integrate it. Reaching Facebook’s 900 million users through the App Center is another incentive for them to do so.
The showcase also encourages makes it easier to discover apps built on Facebook, many of which integrate Facebook’s payment system Credits. All games built on Facebook are required to use Facebook Credits to accept payments (except when they’re running on iOS), and Facebook takes a takes a 30% cut of all purchases made with Facebook Credits. That’s why as of February Zynga accounted for 12% of the social network’s revenue.
Facebook will also presumably take a 30% cut of the purchase price for upcoming paid apps built on Facebook.